CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Winning the Abortion Battle

May 20, 2012

There are all sorts of contest shows on television now, where a whole bunch of people compete for the prize of top spot. These include cooking shows, building shows, dancing shows, singing shows, talent shows, and so on. All of them involve competitors aggressively and tirelessly vying for the prize.

And what we hear so often – especially from the winners – is that anything can happen if you work hard enough, long enough and persistently enough. Anyone can reach their dreams if they really want something enough and seek to make it happen.

Now there is a bit of truth in all this. I am not talking about mind over matter, where if you think enough positive thoughts you will always get what you want. But those who have a dream and work their tails off to make it happen can quite often see very real success indeed.

This is true not just of various talent shows and reality TV competitions, but in social and political movements as well. Often earth shaking changes – revolutions in fact – occur because of a handful of dedicated and committed dreamers who did not just have great visions, but worked like mad to make them reality.

Think of how the Bolsheviks for example could take over all of Russia and impose their will on the nation. Think of how the radical counter-culturalists of the 60s managed to turn America and the West upside-down in just a matter of years. The Russian Revolution and the Cultural Revolution are just two clear examples of this.

Of course forces for good can also be mentioned here. Recall how Wilberforce and a small group managed to turn the tide on slavery – a massive task back in their day. And recall that the group aligned with Wilberforce – the Clapham Sect – often never numbered more than twenty or thirty in number.

Thus a small group of dedicated and fully sold-out individuals can change the world. Indeed, this should be obvious to all Christians. Jesus had a small motley crew of a dozen and he managed to turn the world upside-down, which is just what the KJV rendering of Acts 17:6 says.

With all these examples – both good and ill – of how a really dedicated band of conscientious citizens can change their world, why not think about this in relation to abortion? Here is the major social and moral issue of our day crying out for some action; can a small but dedicated group turn this one around as well?

Why not? The fact that we are not seeing abortion come to an end may tell us more about our concern and dedication – or lack of it – than about the nature of the beast we are dealing with. At least that is the view of one activist. He recently wrote a stirring piece on this issue, and he is worth quoting at length.

Rolley Haggard says this: “I believe we could end abortion virtually overnight—if we really wanted to. But much as I hate to say it, it appears we don’t really want to. At least, not badly enough. Permit me to explain.” He continues:

“Are we serious about saving unborn lives, or not?
‘Yeah,’ you say, ‘I think I see where you’re headed with this. Problem is, there isn’t “universal appeal” for this issue yet.’
Exactly. But we can fix that.
‘Who’s ‘we’?’ you ask.
The evangelical church, that’s who.
‘Yeah? And just how?’
I was afraid you’d never ask. It’s so simple it makes a body ache to think it hasn’t been done yet. Stay with me while I set this up just a little bit more.”

While Haggard is of course an evangelical writing to fellow evangelicals, his concerns certainly can be taken to heart by all believers. He continues: “In great measure, we march to the loudest drumbeat. We fall in step with the worldview that commands the most deference and respectability amongst our 70-80 million American evangelical friends and leaders. We give ourselves to what we perceive as God’s highest priorities. So the question becomes, ‘Do we perceive the battle for the unborn among God’s highest priorities?’ In my opinion, we do not. Because if we did we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

He looks at other key concerns such as missions and evangelism, then says this: “The aforementioned ministries, important as they are, are not supreme. They conform to the Great Commission, but there is, if you will, a Greater Commission. It is what Christ called ‘the great and foremost commandment’ (Matthew 22:38). It’s called love.

“Echoing the words of Christ, the apostle Paul said, ‘Love is the fulfillment of the law’ (Romans 13:10), and ‘he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law’ (v. 8), and ‘the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.’ (Galatians 5:14)

“Important as the Great Commission is, it is not to be performed to the dilution, neglect, or negation of the Greater Commission. If a neighbor’s house is burning down around him, God’s will, God’s priority, is clear: You risk all to save the precious life.

“Who among us can’t see the holocaust engulfing the unborn? The house is burning down around our little neighbor and we consider it merely ‘important.’ But the pro-life cause is not ‘important’ It is crucial. You’ve heard of ‘damning with faint praise.’ Well, what we’ve been doing is ‘damning with half-hearted action.’

“You don’t tell a patient, ‘It is “important” for you to keep breathing.’ If you don’t breathe, you die. It is crucial that we do every lawful (and I stress the word lawful) thing possible to end abortion. If we don’t, they die. And you know what? For all practical purposes, so do we (see Revelation 3:1). Over 50 million children have been aborted in America under sanction of federal law since Roe v. Wade. Fifty million.

“If we honored each of those 50 million human beings with a single minute of silence, we would remain speechless for over 95 years. How about instead of remaining speechless as, to our everlasting shame we have done now for 39 years, we open our mouths and blow the trumpet?”

He concludes this way: “If every Sunday, in every pulpit, in every evangelical church across America, ministers would devote one minute—one minute—to decrying the evil of abortion on demand, such universal solidarity within the ranks of Christian leadership would accomplish two things, maybe three.

“First, it would dispel ambiguity and send a clear signal to every pew-sitting believer that this is a top-line priority with God, not a fine-print codicil, not ‘one more good thing that Christians ought to do when they have time.’

“Second, it would foster unanimity amongst all believers—at least on this one all-important issue—and enable us together to render unto God what is God’s (i.e., sufficient advocacy at the ballot box to get Roe overturned) while at the same time rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s—which, don’t forget, includes the advice and consent of ‘the governed.’

“And third, maybe, just maybe the voice of conscience would become less easily ignored by those outside the church and we would see abortion on demand outlawed, not only in America, but around the world—‘overnight.’ But it’s a big ‘if.’ After all, how many ministers can spare a whole minute?”

Exactly right. I guess it is a question of priorities and commitment. Either we take seriously the fact that 45-50 million unborn babies are slaughtered every year or we don’t. Either we take Proverbs 24:11 seriously or we don’t: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter”.

John Piper put it this way: “I believe pastors should put their lives and ministries on the line in the issue of abortion. The cowardice of some pastors when it comes to preaching against abortion appalls me. . . . The law of our land is immoral and unjust. That should be declared from tens of thousands of pulpits in America.”

And R. C. Sproul rightly said this: “I believe that the greatest ethical issue today is that of abortion. In recent years many have come to see terrorism as more concerning than abortion. I am baffled by that, because more people were killed on September 10 in the womb of U.S. women than were killed on 9/11 in New York City. More babies were slaughtered on September 12 than adults were killed on 9/11. If we had a camera on the womb so that CNN could show us graphic videos of what actually happens in the slaughter of unborn children, abortion would be quickly abolished, but the reality of it is covered up. If there is one thing I know about God, it is that he hates abortion.”

These men care deeply and passionately about abortion, and want to make it history. Do you?

thepoint.breakpoint.org/features-columns/articles/entry/12/19080

[1490 words]

19 Responses to Winning the Abortion Battle

  • Looking back to the time of the holocaust, I often wonder about the sermon topics that would have been preached from the pulpits. But what really should have been said? Of course, it would have taken real courage to speak out in those days – execution may have been the price you paid for it.

    However, today in times of little persecution, our silence and inactivity regarding the modern-day holocaust of abortion tells me that we are living in even more heinous days.

    Annette Nestor

  • Yes quite so Annette

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • “The fact that we are not seeing abortion come to an end may tell us more about our concern and dedication – or lack of it”

    I think this is very true, Bill. However, I think another important factor (at least here in Australia — I can’t really speak for the US) is that among those who are strongly pro-life, there is a disappointing lack of organisation, cooperation and coherent strategy. It will be hard to mobilise the masses if “high command” is in a state of disarray. Something I long for is for pro-lifers to get better organised.

    Jereth Kok

  • Yes there is certainly some truth to that as well Jereth.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Part of every stirring speech is probably an element of unreal idealism. I am not trying to pop anybody’s bubble, especially not yours, Bill, I wish what you say here could be true tomorrow. I am wondering though if it is exactly the unreality of such speeches in the past has led to at least some of the apathy we experience today. We may be able to outlaw abortion over night, but that is a far cry from stopping every abortion over night. Many other factors have to come into play for that to happen and it is probably a very unrealistic expectation, which, when soon realized by those following the call may lead to the exact apathy the speech wanted to address in the first place.
    Wilberforce in his attempt to reform manners, tried to make “goodness fashionable” and that is cultural counterpart that needs to occur at the same time as prayer for revival and the restoration of godly laws. The work of Wilberforce goes on today because sadly slavery is still around, so we must not expect the evil of abortion to go away over night. Much more can and must be done, but I believe unrealistic expectations do damage to the cause, the work against that evil too will have to go on with diligence and perseverance until Jesus comes again.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Thanks Ursula

    But was Jesus involved in ‘unrealistic expectations doing damage to the cause’ when he told his disciples to be perfect as their heavenly father is perfect? Was Wilberforce involved in ‘unrealistic expectations doing damage to the cause’ when he sought to stop slavery although almost the entire nation was for it?

    If “unrealistic expectations” can “do damage to the cause,” so too can unrealistic or unnecessary pessimism and defeatism.

    As to the suggestion being made – not by me but by the author I cite – that one minute in every sermon by every evangelical pastor may help in defeating abortion: well, no, abortion will probably not disappear overnight. But given that probably less than one per cent of evangelical pastors now say anything about abortion, to have something like this take place would be revolutionary, and would go a very long way indeed. It certainly would be a terrific start and I certainly would applaud it and support it big time.

    So will this or any other one method change things overnight? Probably not. But will sitting on our butts and doing nothing, or even with good intentions critiquing those who aim for something higher help either? Probably not. (I am not saying you are doing this by the way, but plenty of Christians are.)

    If we do not have clearly defined targets, we will never hit them of course. We all wish to see abortion eliminated. Offering a bit of inspiration and even idealistic encouragement once and a while I do not think is counter-productive or harmful. We all need a shot in the arm on occasion, and I will do anything to help us in this battle – even provide some idealistic motivation.

    And yes we need to work on all fronts, engaging in evangelism and revival as well as social reform. And of course I am speaking about the West where slavery (at least for blacks) is now history. Sure, no perfection on anything will ever be achieved in a fallen world. But it helps to encourage others to seek to do their best, and to aim high and share visions and passions.

    But yes we certainly do need balance and realism here as well Ursula. So thanks for sharing. As always your thoughts are certainly welcome and appreciated.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • It seems to me there is a difference between a real life emergency and our daily walk. This Abortion holocaust is worse than slavery. Because not all slaves died – some escaped and some slaves were slightly better off, had a job. But ALL babies die from Abortion in the womb which should be the safest place on earth. I sincerely don’t mean to downgrade the evil of slavery in any shape or form.
    Daniel Kempton

  • Bill I am currently reading Daniel Becker’s book ‘Personhood’, I know you have reviewed it and it makes for some stirring reading. I wonder if any of our politicians or leaders of Christian standing, would have the strength of character to do what he did. To publicly show an abortion taking place. Surely people would react to such a sight, as Daniel Becker put it, “If America (people) is to reject abortion, they must first see abortion”. The adage out of sight, out of mind, is true, people are apathetic to things they do not see or think will not affect them.

    Fred Merlo

  • In the UK, there is such a group of people who are dedicated to seeing abortion become unthinkable and so eventually the unborn being given protection in law again. A small but growing group of people are completely and sacrificially committed to exposing the truth about abortion, using peaceful educational displays outside abortion clinics, outside Parliament and other key places. They use debate, which is often triggered by the graphic images they display. MANY minds have been changed (especially amongst students) as abortion is exposed for what it is, Help is offered to women in difficulties but who decide they do not want to abort and counselling is offered to women suffering from the effects of past abortions. The biggest shock to the to abort67 team has been the hostility of many churches to what they do (though more are starting to see the need and effectiveness of what they do) abortion is not something that many churches want to address it seems…

    Jean Stephenson. UK

  • Thanks Jean. Yes the hardest part seems to be rousing dead churches.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Here’s a thought.
    A church service for men are asked, who looks at porn?
    A church service for women are asked, who’s had an abortion?
    Those two factors might explain why the church is SO crushed.
    Daniel Kempton

  • Sadly you are quite right Daniel

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thank you Bill, for your kind words. I am sure we are 100% on the same page and I agree with everything you say, as you know and I didn’t want to detract from what you said one bit, in fact, I wanted to make sure that the effort can be sustained rather than ride on sporadic enthusiasm. I know you have not been sporadic, neither have the Preston’s and probably not people commenting on this site.
    I agree with what you are saying about people being apathetic and needing a shot in the arm, but I would also rather see people getting into this war knowing exactly what to expect so they can push through and not give up when they feel their efforts have achieved nothing. As you know that is the time when you decide to keep going no matter what. My prayer is and will be for a sustained and united campaign. It is good to know that neither of us, especially you has to feel that you are working on your own. Wilberforce’s support came from the close-knit and visible Clapham group, while support for the pro life cause is more global and more spread throughout communities.
    I must admit, I sometimes feel a little isolated from the rest of my church community due to what they think my radical views and actions.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Yes quite so Ursula, and yes, I know about non-supportive churches.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • What is that Chinese proverb? A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Sydney Myer began his journey selling haberdashery from a cart at South Melbourne Market.

    We need a new imputus on the subject as the current ones are not firing the imagination. I am sure we can turn the one minute message into a massive campaign. I have lots of ideas on this one i.e one minute abortion day.

    Lets do a Wilberforce and get government approved baby murder outlawed as it is not necessary. Who will join a 70 y.o. geriatric like me. Better to have died fighting than not to have fought at all.

    Roger Marks

  • Hey I’m with you Roger.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I will join you Roger, and not only because I too am a 70 year old geriatric.

    Paul Reid, Berwick, Australia

  • Annette,
    Your 1940’s holocaust connection is spot on. I can’t help but join all the dots with the similar story of Bonhoeffer and his prophetic warnings during the early days of Nazism.
    Greg Koukl has highlighted the slippery slope also from this abstract posted online.

    It sends a chill through me. Christian churches are in denial again and refuse to speak out. I’m part of the church and sit on my bum theorizing what needs to be done. We need a new “confessing church” as in the days of the evil Third Reich. God is watching from heaven, I think he is expecting some action not just words. I’m referring to myself also, I have been convicted but will I heed the warnings and begin civil protests? We are all really pathetic when you consider we have no violent gestapo or hangmen to confront as did Dietrich.

    After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?
    by Alberto Giubilini & Francesca Minerva

    Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

    http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/03/01/medethics-2011-100411.full

    Dallas James, Essendon

  • Just a quick correction – it’s 1.2 million abortions per year in the U.S. – the total since 1973 is approx. 55 million. Otherwise, good article.
    Mary Anne Buchanan

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